On 30 June 2022, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) were granted approval by the Fair Work Commission to conduct a ballot of its members to undertake protected industrial action.
Since then, there have been a number of misleading claims made by the union about Qantas’ approach to bargaining and the ALAEA’s demands. This page clarifies a number of these claims and will be updated as required.
The industrial action ballot will be open until 10 August. No protected industrial action can take place before then.
Note: There are a number of different types of engineers – licensed aircraft maintenance engineers (LAMEs), aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs) and apprentices. LAMEs are the only group who are part of the ballot for industrial action.
Union claim: Qantas licensed engineers haven’t had a pay rise in four years, so 12 per cent is a reasonable amount to catch up in one year.
Fact: The union’s claim for an increase to wages of this magnitude ignores the impact COVID has had on aviation, which has so far cost Qantas $23 billion in revenue and $6 billion in losses. The Group has forecast further losses in FY22. We simply cannot afford wage increases of this size.
Compared to the Group-wide wages policy of 2 per cent annual increases, a 12 per cent pay increase for one year would increase our engineering wages bill by almost $10 million this year, which isn’t sustainable.
This is from the same union that tried to argue in the Federal Court that Qantas should have continued to fly empty planes when borders closed, despite Qantas having just 11 weeks of cash left at one point. It would have put the future of the company and thousands of jobs at risk. Their own lawyers said it would be an “unbelievably loss making” thing to do.
The Qantas approach applied to our licensed engineers would see them receive annual increases (backdated to 2021) of two per cent in line with the group wages policy which we introduced when the pandemic hit in 2020. More than 4000 employees across 10 work groups have already made agreements in line with the wages policy.
Union claim: The latest $5000 boost for employees shows Qantas is recovering and can now afford pay rises.
Fact: We cannot afford to permanently increase salaries beyond the two per cent annual increases available to all employees, but we are providing a one-off payment of $5000 on top of the 1000 share rights which will convert to shares if the Group can deliver on several conditions by the end of FY23 (currently worth around $4500).
Getting our permanent cost base right is how we’re able to reinvest in our business, which ultimately means more opportunity for our people
Union claim: Engineers are overworked and fatigued which is increasing safety risks because Qantas sacked hundreds during COVID.
Fact: This is wrong. We reject the union’s claims that engineers are overworked and their safety claims are baseless. The union has a history of using false safety claims to further its industrial agenda.
With Qantas’ international flying at around 50 per cent of pre-COVID capacity, our maintenance requirements remain well below their pre-COVID levels.
Overtime levels are lower than historical levels indicating no more work is being performed now than previously.
We are recruiting more engineers across some airports as we grow and international flying returns. We have also continued to invest in training our engineers, so they have more skills across more aircraft types.
Claim: The ALAEA says flight cancellations relate to staff shortages and poor management.
Fact: The issues that all airlines are facing now with delayed flights and cancellations are because of the spike in COVID throughout the community leading to higher sickness levels from crew as well as the economy and industry wide tight labour market. This is affecting other airlines, airports and air traffic control across Australia and around the world. This is not just a Qantas issue.
As challenging as the recent travel peaks in Australia have been, it’s worth looking overseas for comparisons. Airlines and airports in Europe, the US and the UK are dealing with far worse impacts. In an unprecedented move this week, Heathrow Airport has put a cap on passengers travelling through the airport and asked airlines to stop selling seats over the European summer.
We are seeing things improve. Our mishandled bag rate is back to less than one in a hundred. It’s close to what it was pre-pandemic. Our call centre wait times are now in the minutes, not the hours that they were. Our on time performance isn’t where it needs to be. We’re continuing to make changes and are confident that we’ll continue to improve and get back to the levels we were pre-COVID.